PEOPLE : Monegasques may get a new monarch

Is Prince Rainier of Monaco planning to step down in favour of his son, Prince Albert? Paris Match thinks it has buttoned down the story, but the palace has denied it. The magazine reports that the palace has ordered new uniforms with Albert's in itials engraved on the buttons in preparation for an abdication in February or March. Leave for policemen and gendarmes in the principality has also been cancelled for the two months, it said. "The order came from the top and is secret."

Prince Rainier, who is 71, underwent heart bypass surgery a month ago. On Tuesday, he made his first public appearance since then, attending a Christmas party at which his daughter, Princess Stephanie, distributed toys to Monegasques. This was Stephanie's first official appearance with her father in years. He reportedly disapproves of her liaison with her former bodyguard, Daniel Ducruet, with whom she has two children.

A palace spokesman said: "We have no comment, but you can imagine that if such an important decision had been made there would have been a press release."

The new Speaker of the US House of Representatives won't be driving around in his 1967 Ford Mustang after all. Now that he is a big wheel in Congress Newt Gingrich has bowed to the pleas of the Capitol Hill police and agreed to use the car, driver and security detail he had previously shunned.

Mr Gingrich, known for his outspoken conservative views, has received death threats since the Republicans won control of the House in November. As House Minority Whip, he often walked to work, but things have got more dangerous around the seats of American democracy in recent months. Shots and planes seem to land regularly at the White House and an armed man was recently caught trying to enter the Capitol.

Contrary to rumours, Mr Gingrich's car won't be an armoured limousine, or even a red pick-up truck. "It will be a standard American car, probably a mini-van sort of car. . . the sort of car that shuttles kids to soccer games across America," according tothe police. It will be driven by officers specially trained "in defensive and evasive driving tactics" and "trauma management", and also "familiar with the locations of the major medical facilities in the area".

Mr Gingrich can alleviate any trauma he's feeling by contemplating his seven-figure advance from HarperCollins for writing two books on his conservative political philosophy. They'll guarantee trauma for Clintonites.

Bombay has a new sheriff. Sunil Gavaskar, who set a record in 1984 when he attained 34 centuries in test cricket, was sworn in yesterday. He is the 99th honorary occupant of the post and the third cricketer to hold it in its two-century history. Mr Gavaskar, the India captain in 47 test matches, retired from the sport in 1987. He is cricket columnist and commentator and runs a sports management consultancy.

Paris is a glamorous and elegant city, but silk sheets for Carlos the Jackal in his prison cell? No, not really. That was the prison guards' little joke. But the director of La Sante prison concedes that Illich Ramirez Sanchez has a special quilt on his bed, provided on doctor's orders. He is said to have a skin complaint. His bed linen is changed twice a week and taken away for laundering by staff of his lawyer, Jacques Verges.

Nor does Carlos have a cigar cutter in spite of a ban on sharp objects in cells. He has a small pair of scissors available to any inmate, said the prison director, Yves Tigolet.

Carlos is apparently allowed to have plastic rubbish bags, which are normally banned in case inmates use them to commit suicide. Perhaps that is the clearest sign yet that the era of the international terrorist is over.

Maryann Bird